Raoul Walsh on politics:
Our benevolent Peace Corps spent millions of dollars in sixty countries around the world, helping to show people how to improve their land – methods of irrigating, planting crops, building homes, caring for and feeding livestock, establishing schools, and offering medical and dental care to people in other lands. Why is it that the Peace Corps does not give all these benefits to the American Indian? Do they just close their eyes and let these poor unfortunate humans suffer and die in their wasteland? Shame, America, shame for your treatment of the Indian.
That land, called Hollywood, was a mythical abstraction without geographical boundaries. Whether its locations were in Manhattan, a Western prairie in New Mexico, the high Sierra, Paris, London, the Alps or a converted orange grove in Los Angeles – they all formed the total myth known as ‘Hollywood’.
I saw its birth, its golden era, and its declining years. We were never the lotus-eaters of legend. We performed an endless job of hard work under hot lights and blazing sun, in snow and rain or wherever the job took us – even riding a camera on an ice flow.
In those days, Cagney and Bogart were the only two stars you could kill in a picture. You couldn’t kill Flynn; you couldn’t kill Gable; you couldn’t kill Cooper or any of those fellows. The exhibitor wouldn’t even play the picture. But, with Cagney they accepted it and with Bogart. So, I thought, as long as they accepted it, we’d give them a good load of it.
Chase scenes are very easy to shoot. Just keep going, keep going, keep going. Get up on top of the mountain, turn around, bring ‘em down again. Just hope there’s nobody on the road.
Of course, the difficult thing about making pictures as compared with the stage – in those old days, we used to work until three or four o’clock in the morning. When I’d get home, at daybreak, there’d be a script on my lawn, like the newspaper; somebody threw it there. We went back and started work at nine o’clock.
I suppose the record shows that I have filmed my share of murder, rape, and arson. But what a difference between these elements and sodomy, sadism, and scatology. My chauvinist studs never doubted they were males. The virile lover had no need for nudity to prove he was a man; sometimes he didn’t even take off his hat.
Twenty-five hundred years ago, Aristophanes taught us to laugh at sex, and the French made a national industry of frustrated amour. Our neophytes, however, too often look on sex as a matter of very grim substance. Oh well, boys will be boys and sometimes boys will be girls.
It is my somewhat optimistic hope that a new generation of filmmakers (…) will learn the ABC’s of entertainment – which is at least the basis of that rare commodity, art. Indeed, I feel there is a good chance that these young will learn, from life as well as from art, for each man in his time plays many parts.
Quotes from Directing the Film: Film Directors on Their Art (Sherman, Eric. Little, Brown and Company 1976); Each Man in his Time (Walsh, Raoul. New York, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1974); Film Crazy: Interviews with Hollywood Legends (McGilligan, Patrick. St. Martin’s Press 2000); The Men Who Made the Movies (Schickel, Richard. Athaeneum 1975); Jack Benny (Livingstone Benny, Mary. Doubleday and Company, Inc. 1978); Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood’s Legendary Director (Moss, Marilyn Ann. The University Press of Kentucky 2011)
Special thanks: Mark McElhatten; Caitlin Robertson – Fox; Todd Wiener, Steven Hill – UCLA Film & Television Archive; Mary Keene, Anne Morra – Museum of Modern Art, New York; Daniel Bish – George Eastman House; Tim Lanza – Cohen Film Collections; Tom Conley – Abbott Lawrence Lowell Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of Visual and Environmental Studies, Harvard University
Directed by Raoul Walsh. With Clark Gable, Yvonne De Carlo,
US 1957, 35mm, color, 127 min
I kind of like that. Clark was all right, and I thought the girl looked like a mulatto and played the part fairly well. They cut a lot of scenes out of that, too – between Yvonne and Sidney Poitier – that they didn’t like. Not too many.
Directed by Raoul Walsh. With Errol Flynn, Julie Bishop, Helmut Dantine
US 1943, 16mm, b/w, 93 min
This adventure featuring Mounties hunting Nazis in Canada was one of Walsh’s three World War II films starring Errol Flynn.
Directed by Raoul Walsh. With Victor McLaglen, Edmund Lowe,
Dolores Del Rio
US 1927, 35mm, b/w, silent, 116 min
I took the play home and read critical opinions and made notes, until I thought I had the right angle on how to handle the picture. It was not ‘a war play’; it was anti-war. The action revolved around combat conditions, but he idea projected by the characters was that war is a farce. This is contained in Captain Flagg’s dictum: ‘We are all dirt and we propose to die in order that corps headquarters may be decorated.’ Author Laurence Stallings, himself an ex-Marine who left a leg at Château-Thierry, intended the play as an illustration of how war is actually waged. Ruthlessly, he stripped it of all that ‘world safe for democracy’ slush. When Lieutenant Moore, on the edge of a breakdown from combat strain, comforted a brother officer with a shattered arm, asking, ‘What price glory now?’ I identified with him as though I had been there.
Archival print with original Movietone score
Directed by Raoul Walsh. With Victor McLaglen, Edmund Lowe,
US 1929, 16mm, b/w, 115 min
Back at Malibu, I prowled the house, tried to read scripts, and behaved like a caged bear. Although I did not know it, I was the victim of creative backlash. A director between pictures can become a lost soul. I was renewing my hatred of humanity when Winnie Sheehan called. He had a new script. …
Once again Sheehan warned me about the perils of censorship. We got into trouble with the Hays office in spite of the warning. El Brendel marched up to McLaglen with a pretty soubrette in tow and sounded off: ‘I brought you the lay of the land.’ He pulled out a map and made McLaglen look at it while he pointed innocently. The august guardians of public morals took a jaundiced view. We pushed the footage by, but it was a close shave.
Directed by Raoul Walsh. With Claire Trevor, John Wayne,
US 1940, 35mm, b/w, 94 min
There was a bad man, Quantrell's Raiders, the hero's love for the girl and finally the death of the bad guy. Truly a classic story! But because many of the scenes were cut, the film seems a bit odd. …
It was one of the biggest moneymakers Republic ever had. I put everybody in it. Walter Pidgeon – he gave one hell of a performance – Marjorie Mann, Roy Rogers, Gabby Hayes. I put everybody in it but my mother-in-law.
Directed by Raoul Walsh. With Alan Ladd, Gail Russell, William Demarest
US 1945, 35mm, b/w, 100 min
A love triangle tale involving a gambler and his young protégé in love with the same woman that was a major inspiration for Leos Carax’s Bad Blood.
Directed by Bretaigne Windust and Raoul Walsh. With Humphrey Bogart, Zero Mostel, Ted de Corsia
US 1951, 35mm, b/w, 88 min
This hard-bitten noir was the first major American film about murder for hire. Stage director Bretaigne Windust began shooting, but he quickly fell out of favor with the movie’s producers. Walsh finished the film but refused to take credit, reportedly so as not to damage Windust’s Hollywood career.
Directed by Raoul Walsh. With Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Valerie Hobson, Alan Hale
US 1937, 35mm, b/w, 85 min
This witty romp about the romance between a thief and a gold digger was one of two British films Walsh made in 1937.
Directed by Raoul Walsh. With Jack Benny, Alexis Smith, Dolores Moran
US 1945, 35mm, b/w, 80 min
Well, yeah, a lot of people liked it. You know why? Because I panned it so much that everybody said, 'Gee, it can't be that bad.' And they looked at it and said, 'It isn't. I had somebody just the other day in Portland say to me, 'Gee, I saw The Horn Blows at Midnight and I liked it.' And I said, 'Well, you liked it because I didn't.' – Jack Benny
Directed by Raoul Walsh. With John Wayne, Marguerite Churchill,
US 1930, 35mm, b/w, 125 min
Before we left for Yuma, Wayne came to me with another husky young man over six feet tall who played on the same football team. ‘Mr. Walsh, can you find a part in your picture for this friend of mine?’ He sounded apologetic, as though he might be asking too much. When I inquired the friend’s name, he answered ‘Ward Bond.’ I hired Ward as a wagon-train driver. He was to drive many more wagons in later years. In helping a pal, Wayne had done picture fans a favor. …
I needed a clincher, something to bring home to viewers how the pioneers actually put their lives on the line during such migrations…. The opportunity I had been waiting for came when a transverse cleft stopped progress. The cut was deep and precipitous and there was a white curl of water in the bottom. In other circumstances, I would have called it a day, but I wanted the train to cross that canyon. …
The last wagon to go down gave the sequence more reality than I had bargained for. About halfway in its swaying descent, a knot must have slipped. The wagon hung lopsided just long enough to heighten the suspense. Then it went crashing to the canyon floor to make a pile of wreckage in the white water.
The Big Trail, after all the worries and doubts, ended fortunately and made money. In spite of weather extremes and frequent changes in location and the bellyaching of the Broadway element, my new leading man had made a fine frontiersman. His acting was instinctive, so that he became whatever or whoever he was playing. Later, under the direction of John Ford, he joined the ranks of movie immortals. There is a lot of pride in the knowledge that I discovered a winner. Not only that. I also found a great American.
Directed by Raoul Walsh. With Errol Flynn, Alexis Smith, Jack Carson
US 1942, 35mm, b/w, 104 min
I remember when I was doing Gentleman Jim with Ward Bond playing John L. Sullivan. After Flynn defeated him in New Orleans and became the world’s champion, Flynn’s manager threw a big party at the hotel and Ward Bond came and played a magnificent scene where he handed Flynn the World’s Championship belt and there’s some marvelous dialogue between the two of them and finally some tears came to Ward’s eye and he walked out. And when the scene was over, the whole cast, the electricians, the crew and everybody applauded. That was the kind of camaraderie they had. They were all marvelous people.